Ojanen_Chiou Architects shared with us their first prize winning proposal for the Kunshan Huaqiao Forum and Hotel where the city is known as the birthplace of traditional Kunqu opera, and is renowned for its unique canal townships in the Yangtze River Delta. The effort to create synergy between urban development and environmental habitat, while creating numerous layers of experience that maximize the use and enjoyment of the water’s edge, became the inspiration for the organization and form of the architecture. As the centerpiece of the entire development, the buildings seek to exemplify an adaptive, ecological and progressive spirit while retaining a strong connection to local cultural traditions. More images and architects’ description after the break.
In 2008, the competition sponsor called for ideas for a new 955,000sm waterfront commercial district at a key oxbow portion of the Wusong River in order to support the area’s booming economy while creating public amenities and open space and ameliorating the effects of decades of industrial development. In the winning scheme, SWA Group, in conjunction with Herrera Environmental Consultants, proposed a localized bioremediation program to improve the river water quality and restore the local ecology. The key component of the SWA master plan is a wetland water- treatment park that feeds into an inner bay encompassed by a riparian edge for wildlife habitat, activity areas including beaches, trails, gardens, plazas, and fountains, and a series of commercial buildings that will include a conference center (Forum), hotel and villas.
Situated on a man-made island within the newly created inner bay, the Forum was conceived of as an extension of the green space of the island with a portion of ground plane tilted upward to create space for the building program, and extended vertically to serve as an iconic urban marker. The overall form of the building is reminiscent of a water bird: an appropriate metaphor not only for ecological renewal symbolizing the sustainable development philosophy, but for its function as a landmark place of inspiration and creativity.
The hotel takes on a complementary character relating to various aspects of the local cultural heritage in order to create a deliberate link to the past without resorting to faux historicism. The form of the hotel was inspired by the sinuous movement of the river, and the geometry of the zig-zag bridge, which is a traditional element of classical Chinese garden design. Overlaying this form is a pattern inspired by the traditional “Ice-Ray” lattice design that can be traced back millennia as an abstraction of the seemingly random, yet highly structured patterns found throughout nature.
The villas occupy smaller islands in the middle of the bay just to the west of the main hotel. Modest in size, they are designed as contemporary interpretations of the traditional Chinese canal house in scale and materiality as a counterpoint to the overtly progressive architecture of the conference center and hotel.
The buildings were designed to incorporate the latest technologies in energy and water conservation in order to minimize their impact the surrounding environment.